Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Bresson’s Product Placement

Bresson’s Product Placement

Watching Robert Bresson’s Pickpocket this week, I couldn’t help but wonder if the scene in the subway in which we see Michel in front and to the right of a seltzer water billboard that says “L’egalite de Perrier” was a conscious choice or not on the director’s part.  If so, it struck me as either the first use of product placement in film, or else, more likely, a nice and (given the way it was shot) subtle means of using “found” media messages as a contrast to the protagonist’s views—in the film, Michel makes a somewhat tenuous argument justifying his pickpocketing by claiming he is part of the elite of society who should go unpunished since they are ostensibly doing French culture a favor by redistributing the wealth.  Is this scene the first time in cinema history that the rhetoric of a film’s content is contrasted with the rhetoric of the dominant culture into which the film’s narrative arrives?  If Bresson is as all that as many claim him to be, then having the “editorial” of the film world contrast with the “advertising” of the viewer’s world produces an interesting paradox: the viewer comes away confirmed in their intuition that only through film can we really see and then question the dominant cultural ideology, at the same time feeling perplexed, since escaping to the movies is already a fundamental part of the dominant cultural ideology before we enter the theater.  I have a vague recollection of a similar moment where a character’s actions/motivations are contrasted on screen by an advertisement they pass by, in an early Buster Keaton comedy (which would be a much earlier example), but can’t place the film or scene.  Anyone?

phlog ::: from publisher ::: (1) Comments

Comments

1

You should read the article, “Dream/Factory”, by Jane M. Gaines. It gives a pretty interesting depiction on the role cinema plays in society as it applies to capitalism and utopian ideologies. I think you’d find it an insightful article. As for Pickpocket, I personally think that everything related to mise en scene within Bresson’s films are completely intentional… Then again, I’m a huge Bresson fan, so I could be biased.

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